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Washington Post Food Section

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A few days ago we were treated to this wonderful story in the Post detailing the lives of some restaurant workers at Merkado. Deservedly, it was on the front page of the paper.

To me, it represents the kind of reporting that should be appearing regularly, perhaps weekly in the Food section. That’s not to say it needs to be as long of a story. But it’s a three-dimensional story that painted a great picture of what’s going in not only in the restaurants of our city, but also what’s going on in our city as a whole.

In this week’s Food section there was this article that had the potential to provide a well-rounded story that came from a variety of angles. The story had to do with a shortage of organic milk. It could have been a great story on many fronts; health, business, lifestyle, family. But it fell utterly (udderly?) short.

Time and again they noted the huge increase in demand for organic milk. But they never answer the huge question of why? They note, "Consumer concerns about health have heightened in recent years -- and perhaps have grown even more this year after the government released its 2005 dietary guidelines."

Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no attribution for the statement, what does it mean to say “health concerns have heightened” in recent years?" They weren't a concern five years ago when everyone went low-carb? They weren't a concern ten years ago when everyone was trying to cram oat bran into everything? They weren't a concern thirty years ago when everyone took up jogging? Or are they saying that consumers were concerned before 2000, but we’re REALLY concerned now?

I think it’s fascinating that more and more people are knowingly paying double to triple the cost of conventional milk in order to get organic milk, yet no effort was made to determine why. There’s a huge story there, if not on milk itself, then on organics, and local farming, etc. that the Post is totally missing.

The last time I recall a good story in the Post Food section was when they did a full look at a Mexican neighborhood in Maryland. It outlined the restaurants and stores, the customers and workers, and had maps so you could try it all out for yourself.

Again, I realize space is an issue in terms of how many inches are devoted to a story. But I think this one would have been a hell of a lot more interesting than that long Twinkie story they did some time ago.

What do you think?

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JPW   

I'm still trying to figure out why they gave all of that space to the story about Moby and his tea house in Manhattan. My best guess is that they were trying to appeal to the "young folk". Other than that, I have no idea why they thought that was worthy of coverage to the detriment of food around DC

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Tweaked   

I know they sometime do this (like Michel Richard's salmon recipes) but I think they should be carrying more cooking with DC chefs, pick a chef and have them do a column each week for a month, how to make this dish from my restaurant at home, dishes I like to cook when not in the kitchen, ma's recipe for apple pie etc.

Helps promote DC restaurants and more interesting then Twinkies...sure it's a rip off from the NYTimes food section, but that's usually one of the better pages in their food section.

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jm chen   

This is interesting... just noticed they debuted a new chat on washingtonpost.com today, with the "Food Section staff." (Sort of like the one with the Travel staff and the Going Out Gurus one.)

Haven't quite figured out what it's all about, but most of the questions seem to be shopping and cooking related, so I thought I'd drop the link here.

Front Burner.

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Barbara   
Are my standards sinking, or is the Food Section improving somewhat these days?

I think you are on to something. There have actually been recipes lately that I thought about clipping. That hasn't happened in quite a while.

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Tweaked   

I thought this weeks was pretty lame: No sweat entertaining. Can Uncle Sam's Recipes be Saved. Just seems to me to be the same schlock as the Twinkie article.

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alan7147   
I thought this weeks was pretty lame: No sweat entertaining. Can Uncle Sam's Recipes be Saved. Just seems to me to be the same schlock as the Twinkie article.

Adding to this, the wine section was also lame this week. Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot?? How many times have I heard about this wine already!

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cjsadler   

They should have brought Kliman on board-- that really would have been interesting.

Edit: Nevermind, the new editor came on in Jan. I thought this week was especially lame, though.

Edited by cjsadler

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Can you believe the amount of real estate given to that godawful lead in the Food section today? Do we really need one-and-a-half full pages, including the entire page one above the fold, of L. Paul Bremer cooking? I must be completely out of touch with whatever interests the food editor thinks her readers have. I mean, the subject is bad and boring enough, but I'm even more shocked at how much space they gave it!

Even the thing they did with Hagedorn and Richman didn't command that much space. And that was something unique and interesting. The Merkado employees story many months ago doesn't even make the food section. But all that space today for some formerly semi-important dude cooking. Wow.

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Do we really need one-and-a-half full pages, including the entire page one above the fold, of L. Paul Bremer cooking?  I mean, the subject is bad and boring enough, but I'm even more shocked at how much space they gave it! 

Actually, being something of a foreign policy junkie, I was fascinated to read that Bremer is so into cooking. The paragraph about Iraq, in particular, was intriguing. For Washington's premier newspaper, I think it's a good subject for the Food section.

The huge photo on the front page accompanying the small amount of text is a bit much, though. They certainly don't seem to have a lot of faith in their material if they're taking up 80 percent of the page with photos and graphics.

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bilrus   
But all that space today for some formerly semi-important dude cooking.

Lately the sports section has been running sizable articles on a regular basis about administration members or members of Congress who play golf.

This is what passes for celebrity in this town. Yawn.

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monavano   

Dayum!! In my next life, someone please remind me to become a diplomat. He has a home in Chevy Chase and Vermont, not to mention that HUGE stove. Although I thought it a bit glib for Bremer to complain about his (relatively) paltry kitchen digs in his $$$$$$ CC home, he seems to be a naturally gifted cook with a great deal of passion.

I think I will try out the chicken recipe at least.

Note; I think the front page pic was so big in order to fit the whole stove in the frame.

Check it out:

http://cgi.ebay.com/LA-CORNUE-STOVE-MODEL-...1QQcmdZViewItem

Edited by monavano

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Lately the sports section has been running sizable articles on a regular basis about administration members or members of Congress who play golf. 

This is what passes for celebrity in this town.  Yawn.

I think you hit it on the head, Bill. After all, is there really a dearth of people who have taken cooking classes, like to travel, and have cooking as a hobby?

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Joe H   

I actually think the Post is making impressive strides in their Food section. I enjoyed the exchange between Richman and Hagedorn and liked the lengthy feature about Bremer. Both of these seemed to be the kind of articles that the Post has lacked for several years in this section. Yes, there's more that I would like to see including elements from some of the local blogs. But these are positives. What is needed is for them to sell more advertising space which in turn funds their ability to grow this section. Incrimental steps, but steps nevertheless.

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tastedc   

I'm a little behind on what's going on at the Washington Post Food Section:

new food editor, totally changed the people/concept of the wine section, and now I understand (my source is DC-Beer Mailing List) that there will be a beer column!! So here it goes: how will the Post Food Section change in order to compete more effectively with the established and venerable Washingtonian, the aggressively expanding Examiner newspaper, and all the new fashion and lifestyle magazines coming to Washington? This topic could be multiple threads, especially with the changes in their wine department (Michael Franz is gone, Giliberti is still there) and DC's own Beer Reviewer, who would have thought?

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I think the sous-vide article, although it's been done everywher else first, had the local angle making it relevant, and the who's doing what dishes in the Cryovac was interesting. But the tasting panel was particularly annoying in a typical DC fashion. Who are these people? If I want amateur opinions, I'll just talk to my friends. But I don't think there's a lot to work with either, quite frankly, as Tom's Weekly Dish proves-owner of Mimi's open another place. Let me guess, it sucks? And Death by Chocolate? What is this 1995? The fries at Palena? The Food section is an abomination plain and simple.

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DCMark   

Man, do you read my dreams? Agree with you on most of it. The wine section with a monthly panel is ridiculous. Who cares what the intelligence/diplomatic/Redskins, etc. think about wine. I have gotten some great recs from the wine writers (and some duds), so why give up 25% of their reviews to some random group.

Why did Franz go?

I'm a little behind on what's going on at the Washington Post Food Section:
new food editor, totally changed the people/concept of the wine section, and now I understand (my source is DC-Beer Mailing List) that there will be a beer column!! So here it goes: how will the Post Food Section change in order to compete more effectively with the established and venerable Washingtonian, the aggressively expanding Examiner newspaper, and all the new fashion and lifestyle magazines coming to Washington? This topic could be multiple threads, especially with the changes in their wine department (Michael Franz is gone, Giliberti is still there) and DC's own Beer Reviewer, who would have thought?

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oliveDC   
But I don't think there's a lot to work with either, quite frankly, as Tom's Weekly Dish proves-owner of Mimi's open another place. Let me guess, it sucks?

Busboys and Poets is actually quite a significant addition to the city. It's not aspiring to be a foodie destination, just an eclectic neighborhood hangout and public meeting place that happens to offer good beer on tap, good pizzas, interesting sandwiches, etc. Think Tryst on a larger scale with greater potential to bring neighbors together. It's far from sucking.

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mdt   
I think the sous-vide article, although it's been done everywher else first, had the local angle making it relevant, and the who's doing what dishes in the Cryovac was interesting. But the tasting panel was particularly annoying in a typical DC fashion. Who are these people? If I want amateur opinions, I'll just talk to my friends. But I don't think there's a lot to work with either, quite frankly, as Tom's Weekly Dish proves-owner of Mimi's open another place. Let me guess, it sucks? And Death by Chocolate? What is this 1995? The fries at Palena? The Food section is an abomination plain and simple.

Didn't we already beat this topic to death? What is to be expected from a newspaper with a circulation of the Post? Do you think they are going to cater the small percentage of people that read sites like this? I am not saying that there is no room for improvement, but there are other options for folks like us.

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From over on the Wine forum:

In other news, which I mentioned in the dedicated thread, Michael Franz is soon to write his last column for the Post.  I'm guessing that he's going to be concentrating on the WineReviewsOnline website.

I'll miss his columns in the Post, but I'll follow him online.

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